Bosnia prosecutors to investigate origin of icon gifted to Russia's Lavrov

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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnian prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate whether a 300-year-old icon presented as a gift by the Bosnian Serb leader to Russia's visiting foreign minister may have been illegally smuggled out of war-torn eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's embassy in Sarajevo has raised concerns over the artefact after the Bosnian Serb news agency Srna published a photograph of the icon and its seal of authenticity, which suggest it may originate in the city of Lugansk, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling Kiev's forces.

Dozens of Bosnian Serbs have fought alongside the rebels in the war in eastern Ukraine, which started in 2014. Serbia and Bosnia's Serbs have close ties with Russia, with which they share the Eastern Orthodox faith.

Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb representative in Bosnia's three-member presidency, gave the gilded icon to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Sarajevo this week.

The Croatian and Bosniak presidency members refused to meet Lavrov over what they labelled his "disrespect" for Bosnia's state symbols and institutions.

Dodik has so far declined to comment on the matter.

Ukraine's foreign ministry confirmed on Friday that its embassy in Sarajevo had asked Bosnian authorities to provide "clarification and full information on the circumstances of this case", and said it would hold talks on the issue in coming days.

In a letter published by Bosnian media, Ukraine's embassy said failure to provide information about the icon would be viewed as indicating support for "the aggressive policies and military actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine".

The embassy declined to provide a copy of the letter or further details to Reuters on Friday.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Gareth Jones)